INTRODUCTION: There are few published articles on group psychotherapy for patients with panic disorder (PD) and usually they are restricted to the cognitive-behavioral approach. OBJECTIVE: To describe an experience of group psychodramatic therapy for PD patients, started in 1996 at Botucatu Medical School - UNESP, and discuss psychodynamic aspects of the panic disorder. METHODS: Two-hour monthly psychodramatic sessions, with an average of 8 to10 patients were carried out. The patients were usually receiving concomitantly psychopharmacological treatment. The subjects to be discussed were freely chosen, ranging from issues directly related to PD (most common symptoms, hurdles to get to a diagnosis, hypochondriac concerns, limitations and dependency, family reactions, strategies of exposure and coping, and effects of drug treatment) to individual conflicts and problems. RESULTS: The psychodramatic approach favors the identification and elaboration of psychodynamic aspects. The most common feelings observed were helplessness and other related ones, such as: insecurity; vulnerability and fear; anger and guilt; isolation and difficulty in identifying and expressing emotions (which manifested physically); and difficulty in assuming the role of caretaker and other responsibilities. CONCLUSIONS: Valuable aspects for the treatment of PD, such as mutual support, partnership, confidence, modeling and encouragement, are favored in a group setting, where sharing experiences and sufferings helped to improve the participants' self-esteem, their ability to express emotions and to play different social roles. Besides the clinical improvement, the symptoms could be better understood and elaborated, and meaningfully integrated into their life context.
Panic disorder; Treatment; Psychotherapy; Psychotherapy, group; Psychodrama; Psychodynamic model